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August 14, 2015

What You Need to Know

August 14, 2015

by Steven Jacobson

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The Thursday Takeaway
Many Pirates-Cardinals games have ended in exciting fashion this season, as seven have been decided by walk-offs. Although the same could not be said for Thursday night's matchup, Pirates fans were still pretty excited to see their team's first victory in Busch Stadium in 2015.

Pittsburgh won in resounding fashion. Against Lance Lynn, who had given up seven runs in his previous four starts (24 innings), the Pirates exploded for seven first-inning runs. Lynn lacked any kind of command, throwing just 24 of his 41 pitches for strikes; he was either wild or left the ball over the plate:

However, Liriano himself looked shaky in the first inning, and it seemed as if his offensive contribution may have tired him out again as it did last Saturday. The lefty loaded up the bases in the bottom of the first and allowed a two-run single to Yadier Molina to bring the game to 4-2. That was all the Cardinals would get in that inning, as Liriano settled down, working himself into trouble and escaping in the third but putting the Cardinals down in order in the second, fourth, and fifth. He loaded up the bases again in the sixth inning, but allowed just one run to finish his night.

Meanwhile, the Pirates had been struggling to score anything off of Tyler Lyons, who relieved Lynn with two outs in the first and shut the Pirates down until the sixth. The game drew uncomfortably close for the Pirates when the Cardinals scored two more runs in the bottom of the seventh, but three runs by Pittsburgh in the top of the ninth put the game out of reach for St. Louis. Mark Melancon retired the side in order to finish the victory for the Pirates.

Quick Hits from Thursday
The Royals bullpen gave up runs! Again!

After Kelvin Herrera and Chris Young struggled on Wednesday night as Kansas City lost to Detroit, it was Wade Davis and Greg Holland's turn to have uncharacteristically bad outings. The Royals, who have the league's best reliever DRA at 3.34, could not hold onto a 5-1 lead.

That was a lead delivered to them by Jeremy Guthrie, who had an uncharacteristically good game. He had a 6.41 DRA on the year, but brought some of his best stuff of the season with him against Los Angeles. Guthrie usually sits in the low 90s, but averaged 94 mph with his fastball and 95 mph with his sinker, touching 96 with both. In addition, his curveball had an inch of extra vertical movement and his sinker had an inch and a half of extra horizontal movement as he stymied the Angels by giving up just one run and two hits.

The Royals scored five with runs in the first, sixth, and seventh. However, a double by Mike Trout to score Kole Calhoun and a groundout by David Murphy to score Trout off of Davis in the eighth brought the Angels within two.

That wasn't enough for Holland, who gave up back-to-back two-run doubles to CJ Cron and Calhoun in the top of the ninth. Holland, who failed to get an out and was removed for Franklin Morales, either missed low or over the middle:

A home run by Eric Hosmer in the bottom of the ninth couldn't turn things around. Still, it's little harm, little foul for the Royals, who still lead their much weaker AL Central opponents by at least eleven games.

***

Sonny Gray was scratched before Thursday's game in Toronto, opening up an easier path to the Blue Jays' 11th consecutive victory. Taking advantage of this development, Toronto took care of their scoring early in the game with four runs on a Kevin Pillar single and a Ryan Goins three-run home run, both in the second innings.

Jesse Chavez actually had solid, swing-and-miss stuff, striking out nine in six innings. However, the A's couldn't get anything going against Mark Buehrle, who, on National Left-Hander's Day, pitched seven-plus innings while only giving up two runs, both of which came in the eighth on a Billy Burns triple and a Mark Canha ground out.

Roberto Osuna closed out the game for the Blue Jays' victory. The 2015 Jays are the first holders of two 11-game winning streaks in the same season since the 1954 Indians. Not bad company there.

***

Meanwhile, their division-rival Yankees were busy doing something that they hadn't done in a long time: winning.

They jumped out to an early lead, scoring 6 in 3 1/3 against Trevor Bauer, which is as many runs as they had scored during their five-game losing streak. Bauer was soon out of the game and replaced by Ryan Webb, who was helped by this play, which is your Defensive Play of the Day:

Top offensive contributors for the Yankees included Brett Gardner and Stephen Drew, as Gardner drove Drew in three times during the game.

***

The Giants are struggling to remain in the Wild Card conversation, and their biggest rival doing that as well is the Nationals, against whom the Giants began a series last night.

Ryan Vogelsong had one of his better starts of the season, giving up one run in five innings despite allowing seven baserunners. Vogelsong also struck out eight batters.

"I guess I had deception on my fastball and a little extra zip," Vogelsong said after the game. He did have about a half-mph of extra velocity on both his sinker and his four-seamer and relied on the four-seamer often, throwing it more frequently than the 27 percent clip at which he usually does. His fastball also had more movement, with an inch of extra horizontal movement on average.

It was a long night for the bullpen, but that wasn't a problem was Hunter Strickland, Sergio Romo, and Santiago Casilla, members of the league's seventh-best bullpen by DRA, combined to pitch four scoreless innings to close out the 3-1 victory.

What to Watch This Weekend
After the Blue Jays swept the Yankees in the Bronx last weekend, New York will attempt to halt the runaway train in Toronto this weekend. Friday night will be a rematch of last Saturday, as Ivan Nova, who struck out six but gave up a grand slam to Justin Smoak as his sole blemish in 5 1/3 innings, will be opposed by David Price, who blanked the Yankees over seven innings. (7:07 PM ET)

It'll be the second installment of the Windy City showdown this weekend, as the Cubs, who are firmly in the second Wild Card spot in the National League, will head across town to US Cellular Field. Jeff Samardizja faces his old team for the first time. (4:10 PM ET)

In what could be a playoff matchup, the Pirates will take on the Mets in Citi Field this weekend. Unfortunately (for lovers of great pitching matchups, but probably not for Mets fans), since Gerrit Cole pitched on Wednesday, he'll miss going against any of the Mets young stud pitchers. Still, this should be an exciting series between two of the National League's top teams. (7:10 PM ET)

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